Barb Miller - Clay

I grew up in the North Valley of Albuquerque not far from the Rio Grande river. Irrigation ditches are the arteries that water farms and pastures here. They are the streams of the high desert. There is nothing better than walking beside a ditch full of water and seeing the ducks rise in a pair when startled, or watching the cranes and geese feed in fields and occasionally spotting a pheasant or a coyote on the prowl.

You can drive down narrow lanes in parts of New Mexico that are shaded by huge gnarled cottonwood trees, leaning away from timeworn adobe walls. In the heat of a summer day the thick heart shaped leaves of these old trees create deep shade and cool. And during the fall, ristras of freshly strung red chiles hang by portals, yellow gold sunflowers line the highway and the sky is often cloudless and brilliant blue. These bright colors are a stark contrast to the emptiness of the land.

From my studio window I look on a huge Cypress tree in our patio. I watch the birds as they gather bits of this and that for their nests. Windows and doors, leaves and water, birds and the night sky are all included in what I make.

I am a potter first of all, and along the way have picked up collage, bookbinding, printmaking, screen-printing, and mosaic.

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My most recent pieces are made of clay, bisque fired, and inspired by ancient house altars from the Middle East as well as our nichos here in New Mexico. I leave some of the pieces as they are, once fired terra cotta clay, while others are stained with an ink wash. I call them shelters. Shelters make me think of safety, of protection from the elements, of a place to rest. They come from my interest in architecture. They are meant to be home to something in your life that you hold dear: a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe or the Buddha, a rock that you found on a hike, grandmother’s ring.